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Jewish World Review July 11, 2003 / 11 Tamuz, 5763

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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Deja Vu All Over Again

Will U.S. and Jewish support for the Palestinian Authority aid peace? | One suicide bombing into the Palestinian cease-fire, optimism about the chances for the success of the road map to peace is still holding in Washington and among the media.

There are many reasons to be cynical about the decision of the Palestinian terrorist organizations to take a respite from their murder sprees. There are even more reasons for skepticism about the ability of the Palestinian Authority to stop the terrorists, even with all the good intentions of its prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

Incidents such as the July 7 attack on a home in Kibbutz Moshav Kfar Yavetz — which took the life of one Israeli — and a fatal shooting in Samaria days earlier are not enough to change minds about the chances for progress. The consensus among most people here and in Israel is that Abbas must be given a fair chance to justify the faith that President George W. Bush has placed in him as a man who can lead the Palestinians to a peaceful and democratic state.

But how far will we bend in order to sustain this idea? More to the point, how much effort and treasure will the United States expend to prove it?

The concept behind the road map peace plan is a logical one: Give a new Palestinian leadership the support it needs in order to get a grip on things, then let it build the infrastructure necessary to keep the peace and govern the people.


Along with American government aid for the Palestinians, we are told American Jews should pitch in to help Abbas, since that would be the best possible investment for peace with Israel.

But how much effort should those of us standing on the sidelines give to Abbas? In particular, how many U.S. taxpayer dollars and other goodies should he get?

Predictably, the cheerleaders for the road map are urging us to dive in head first.

Former United Jewish Appeal National chair Marvin Lender believes that's exactly what we should do. Writing in The Los Angeles Times on June 26 under a co-byline with the Israeli Policy Forum's Jonathan Jacoby, the New Haven bagel baron claims that "the most important thing we can do now for the Jewish state is to encourage our leaders in the United States to give Abbas' forces whatever is needed."

Following the exact same script that he and other peace-boosters read only a few years beforehand, Lender sees a coalition of "moderate American Jews supporting moderate Palestinians along with Israel" as the key to peace.

In this formulation, rather than merely defending the Jewish state against its enemies, Lender and those who agree with him believe "American Jews must take this opportunity to broaden our definition of what it means to be pro-Israel."

I don't doubt Lender's good intentions. But his words give me a gut-wrenching feeling that we are blindly walking down the same path to tragedy that was followed during the Oslo catastrophe. In the immortal words of baseball philosopher Yogi Berra, the road-map enthusiasts are giving me that feeling of "déjà vu all over again."

The scheme Lender advocates has already been tried, and it failed.

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To read Lender's words and those of others who are pushing for more money for the P.A. is like watching an automobile accident unfold before your eyes. You know what is happening but feel powerless to stop it.

The years following the signing of the 1993 Oslo peace accords witnessed the same sort of earnest commitment to peace on the part of Israelis and Americans as they sought to build the new Palestinian state in the making. In particular, American Jews enthusiastically supported this process.

It seems only yesterday that New York philanthropist Kenneth Lipper was donating millions to Harvard University to set up fellowships for Palestinian bureaucrats to learn the ways of good government. And it was just a few years ago that Philadelphia's own police department was training Palestinians to join Yasser Arafat's P.A. "police."

What happened? The Palestinians may have enjoyed Cambridge, but the rule of their kleptocracy was no better for the training paid for by Lipper. Billions in aid donated to the Palestinians were stolen by Arafat and his merry crew of corrupt thieves.

The police? Not long after they completed their training, they were joining Arab mobs in attacks on Israelis, and were responsible for numerous murders. Three years of a terrorist war that came after Israel made its most generous peace offering have destroyed everything the Palestinians had built. The only tangible result of Oslo was to give Arafat and his killers the means and opportunity to murder hundreds of Jews and thousands of their own people.


Has the enactment of the road map changed any of this?

Despite American calls for his ouster or replacement, Arafat remains in charge of the P.A. and its numerous "security forces."

And even if the terrorist thugs of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Arafat's own Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade agree to stop killing Jews for a few months, Abbas has demonstrated no intention of disarming these murderers.

That said, it is always possible that Arafat might fade into insignificance as Abbas does away with the terrorists. Palestinian schools and broadcast outlets might drop their hate education and incitement against Jews.

I can't see how this would happen, but I would be quite happy to be proven wrong.

Maybe this time an infusion of American cash will be enough to bribe the Palestinians to make peace, even though we know that the same folks that used aid dollars to buy weapons to kill Jews remain in charge. Would a smart businessman like Lender pour good money after bad in this way in his own investments? Not likely, but that's what he is asking us to do with the Palestinians.

Even worse, the same dynamic of blind belief is already unfolding. As skeptics — like the Zionist Organization of America — publish lists of Palestinian violations of the map, their reports are derided by peace enthusiasts in the same way that the group's publicizing violations of Oslo were dismissed. What we need in the coming months is determination to hold the Palestinians accountable for their behavior and to keep the heat on the Bush administration to stick to its word about not undermining Israel's security. Unlike the Oslo period, we cannot afford to blindly finance terror or turn a blind eye to Palestinian incitement.

Americans should not oppose any real chance for peace, but neither should they be enlisted as accomplices in a campaign to ultimately force Israel into more concessions in exchange for terror.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here. This past month Mr. Tobin won first places honors in the American Jewish Press Association's Louis Rapaport Award for Excellence in Commentary as well as the Philadelphia Press Association's Media Award for top weekly columnist. Both competitions were for articles written in the year 2002.

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